Cops suspect arson in 2009 RTO fire | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Cops suspect arson in 2009 RTO fire

The fire at the Regional Transport Office (RTO) at Thane in 2009 was not an accident. This is what the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) suspects.

mumbai Updated: Nov 01, 2010 02:40 IST

The fire at the Regional Transport Office (RTO) at Thane in 2009 was not an accident. This is what the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) suspects.

On February 5, 2009, a fire burnt all records of details about two and four-wheeler vehicles registered with the RTO, including professional taxes paid by commercial vehicles.

The police suspect foul play as the fire had mysteriously broken out 16 days after an Right to Information query sought details on vehicle registration and professional tax.

The RTI, filed on January 19, 2009, sought details on imported vehicles, their customs bill of entry, taxes on such vehicles, cess tax, and proof of residence provided by the importers in the past four years. Moreover, information pertaining to professional tax paid by commercial vehicles, the number of vehicles from outside Maharashtra registered with the RTO in these period (among others), had also been sought.

For the query on imported vehicles, the RTO, in its reply furnished on February 18, 2009, said the records were gutted. For the professional taxes, the RTO did not give records of three-and-a-half years. The remaining six months — June 2007 to December 2007 — it said that though it had received payments of over Rs 17 crore from owners, the receipts for the same were not available. For outstation vehicles’ registration, the RTO reiterated that the records were gutted.

“It is unlikely that all the records were kept in one section. This was never investigated,” said a senior ACB official, who is investigating the professional tax fraud at the RTO.

On October 22, the ACB had raided the Thane RTO following a tip-off that a racket was being run in the collection of professional tax from commercial vehicles. During the raid, the ACB team had come across Rs 10 lakh unaccounted cash stashed inside a locker.

The ACB on Friday conducted searches and truckloads of documents were seized —mostly fake bank challans. A senior ACB official, requesting anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to the media, said the RTO had not furnished details of the professional taxes collected by it to the transport commissioner’s office since the past three years.

ACB sources said a senior clerk, Gharat, has emerged as the key ‘coordinator’ in the scam which has been running for the past four years. They said the amount of the fraud is feared to be more than Rs 400 crore — at least Rs 100 crore every year.